where i have been

where i have been | the merry gourmet

I’ve been missing from this space for so long now that when I sit down to write, it feels foreign and almost uncomfortable. It feels like I don’t know it any more, this blog that once felt like my best friend. Now, she’s like that friend from college who, as it turns out, I really don’t have much in common with these days, but I know that once, long ago, we had lots of great times together and shared all of our secrets. The conversation is now slow to start and we can’t get past the awkward silences and talking about the weather. I really want to hang out with her again, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to confide in her as openly and trustingly as I used to.

I’ve intended to write so many things over so many of these past two years, but I freaked myself out a bit. I began to think about those of you who may still be reading here (when there is something to read). I know many of you may be strangers, some of you are old friends from food blogging and social media, some of you may be friends or colleagues from my real life (as opposed to this online one), a handful of you are family or friends of the family, and a small number of you (or maybe more?) may be patients or friends of patients. I questioned whether it was good for me to be so honest and open and raw. I began to wonder whether what I share here could hurt me in any way. Or whether it could hurt someone I love.

I have never written anything here that I regret (with the exception of that embarrassingly naive first post). Professionally, when I speak to residents or medical students or other physicians about social media and having an online presence, I teach them to never write or share anything that would make their mothers embarrassed. I have practiced what I teach.

But despite my past comfort with being honest in my sharing here, I scared myself away from writing in my blog over these past couple of years with my fear of letting you in. Sure, I’ve written a handful of things, but I’ve not really let you in since my father died. It was not you that scared me off, though. Your comments and emails have been wonderful and supportive and caring. It was me. It was my own fear of being honest and admitting…what? Not weakness, no. Maybe just fear of admitting that life was harder than I could handle.

Many of you must know of Glennon Doyle Melton, or if you don’t know her name, you probably know her blog, Momastery. After reading a handful of her posts over the past year or two, I began following her page on Facebook. Almost two weeks ago, she shared a link to a video she’d made for a TEDx conference in Traverse City. The video was called Lessons from the Mental Hospital, and I’ve now watched it twice. In it, Glennon speaks about overcoming her addictions. Mostly, though, she talks about learning to feel her feelings rather than numbing them and learning to tell the truth.

Something clicked for me as I watched Glennon pace the stage in her cute, boot-cut jeans and talk honestly into the camera about being truthful. I thought about my blog and how I felt paralyzed when I thought of writing a new post. I understood then that I afraid of being honest, and that in the absence of being able to share with complete honesty, I had lost my desire to write.

I’d like to find a way to be honest here and to share my life again – all of it, the good and the bad. I know that I will be limited, to a degree, because some stories are not mine to tell. But my story is mine to tell, and I would like to tell the truth of it because I think that I am not alone (even though it desperately feels that way most days). I think that someone else – maybe one of you, even – may need to understand that he or she is not alone, either.

I know that there are some people in my family who may read what I write and may become angry. They may even shut me out entirely. I have come to know, though, that there are worse fates, and that I am already shut out. Others may be appalled and offended that I would share so openly about things we just don’t talk about except maybe in private Facebook messages or on occasional phone calls, and certainly not in public with strangers.

I can’t care about offending, though. I must be true to myself, and that means being honest and talking out loud about things that are difficult and writing them down. I’ve been down this darkened path of keeping things in, and it’s not working for me. I don’t feel whole.

My truth is this: I am the sister of a schizophrenic who will not take medications consistently. Increasingly over these past several years, I have accepted that my brother is also an addict, turning to drugs to self-medicate. I am the daughter of a mother who fell so deep into depression when my father became ill that alcohol must have seemed her only way to escape. When my father died, I think alcohol must have seemed even more comforting than ever before. Or maybe it seemed the only choice. (I can only speculate. After all, her story is not mine to tell.) I am the mother of a curious and wonderful son who never fails to keep me on my toes. I am the mother of a beautiful seventh grader who has grown up too fast and is determined to wear makeup and embrace social media before I am ready. I am the mother of these two amazing children, and I must keep them at a distance from their uncle because I am afraid of him and the violence that he has proven he is capable of.

I will not tell their stories, but I would like to be brave enough to tell my own. I will try to be brave enough. I think that if I can be honest here again, painfully honest even when it makes me uncomfortable- makes us all uncomfortable – I can write again. I can be here again.


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23 Responses to “where i have been”

  1. 1
    Karen Rush — August 22, 2016 @ 12:14 am

    Your post spoke to me at every level of my being. The eloquence of your words taking down the veil was controlled, compelling, beautifully done.

    Although we have no schizophrenia in our family, we dealt with the rest and some more in our family over the years. My mother is now 93 years old and has dementia so doesn’t remember years of terrible unpleasantness let loose by drinking alcohol. She stopped drinking when my beloved father died coinciding with her vertical slip into mental shutdown. My only sibling, a fearful, difficult sister, died from cancer 12 weeks after diagnosis 18 months ago. She had no children, was unhappily married here in Australia for 37 years to a mono-syllabic Texan with chronic renal failure. He then died 4 weeks after her death thankfully.  To manage all this and stay sane, I called it how it was. Previously I chose to distance myself, to be an ‘other’. When I had my now-adult daughter, it was especially important to put distance between them and my babe, husband and me. 

    Quite some years ago I stumbled across your blog. I was drawn to the spare elegance of your words.  Then you went quiet. I thought you were just busy with your work. Medicine is a demanding profession. Selfishly, I am glad you are back and ‘out’. Welcome home. 

    • 1.1
      Merry-Jennifer — August 25, 2016 @ 6:58 pm

      Karen, thank you so much for sharing part of your story with me. And thank you so much for your words of encouragement. Your comment meant a great deal to me. Thank you for that.

  2. 2
    Maureen — August 22, 2016 @ 10:48 am

    Thank you for your honesty about life, real life….the one we all live outside of the glow of Instagram.

    • 2.1
      Merry-Jennifer — August 25, 2016 @ 6:59 pm

      It’s so true, right? We rarely see the ugly in those Instagram lives, but I’m certain we all have our own unpleasant stories to tell. Thank you for continuing to read what I write here in this space.

  3. 3
    cherie — August 22, 2016 @ 11:10 am

    I understand the retreating into self. I am so glad that you’re feeling open to BEING open. I have been a long time reader of your beautifully written blog, having found it in baking exploration, I too assumed life had gotten in the way after you lost your father, as your kids got older. I am sorry it has been for other reasons but I will be here holding space for you as you feel your way towards finding your voice. I have been working on that myself of late, in life in general. I’ve been finding great strength and freedom in kundalini meditation [new to me] in these past months – and the way each meditation ends is with the phrase ‘Sat nam’ which basically means ‘the truth in me sees the truth in you’ and many varieties of such thoughts – so I will close with that – Sat nam.

  4. 4
    Deb|EastofEdenCooking — August 22, 2016 @ 12:51 pm

    It is good to hear from you! We all need time to heal, space to dream, a place to call our own. I have similar family issues/challenges/ problems. And really, I imagine we all do. I dance around it all on my blog and thank you for the courage to speak up.

    We are all injured or broken in some way. I know we are all connected, linked together by our humanity, living during this time, being in the place we call earth. I have no magic answers for being with the families we were given. I’ve come to think that this is part of living, the lessons we must learn. To love with understanding and compassion, all the while setting boundaries. After all, we have a life to too!

    • 4.1
      Merry-Jennifer — August 25, 2016 @ 7:02 pm

      Thank you so much, Deb. I believe as you do, that we’re all connected in some way by our humanity, our human experience with pain and love and joy and fear. I am so glad you’re still reading. Thank you for being here.

  5. 5
    BC Pitcher — August 22, 2016 @ 3:01 pm

    Thank you so very much for your brave honesty. The walk with you reading MerryGourmet.com was healing on a number of levels. And your story and mine mirror one another. 

    Just this weekend as I left a favorite bakery in Traverse I wondered where you were and how you are. Today is the first time a post has landed in my inbox since your father died. It is heartening to read you bravely share the truth of your family and I admire you and think you one of the bravest ladies I’ve ever met. 

    I’m not yet brave enough to share my lonely truths of the last seven years. But reading your blog, I am closer. Please keep writing. 


    • 5.1
      Merry-Jennifer — August 25, 2016 @ 7:08 pm

      BC, thank you for writing this comment. It means so much to know that you’re out there reading. I’m so sorry to hear that you’ve had struggles over these past several years, but know that you’re not alone. WE are not alone. Hugs to you, friend.

  6. 6
    Natalie — August 22, 2016 @ 6:06 pm

    I’ve missed your posts and was happy to see you writing again.  Thank you for being so open and honest, even at the risk of upsetting family members.  Mental illnesses are no joke, and should be taken seriously. I wish there wasn’t such a stigma regarding them so people would feel more comfortable talking about mental health issues.  That being said, as a mom, of course you’ll shield your kiddos from toxic relationships, even when they’re with family members. It must be difficult to deal with this on top of grief. I’m sorry you’re going through.  Please keep sharing if that’s what helps you heal and feel whole. Blessings to you.

    • 6.1
      Merry-Jennifer — August 25, 2016 @ 7:10 pm

      Thank you so much, Natalie. The stigma around mental illness is such a challenge and one that we’ve dealt with in our family for years. I hope that it changes over time. I plan to keep speaking out, for whatever that’s worth. Thank you for being here, Natalie.

  7. 7

    MJ, thank you. For being honest. For being you. Share what you need/ want to here. And remember we’re here to listen/ help, ok? XO

    • 7.1
      Merry-Jennifer — August 25, 2016 @ 7:10 pm

      Oh, thank you so much, Mardi. I know you’re there. I really do. xo

  8. 8
    Angela — August 23, 2016 @ 11:01 pm

    Thank you for having the courage to write about your story.  By the way I love your blog, your stories and your food. You’ve in some way have become like a good friend – a real friend that I come to for feel good reading. I can identify in so many ways with your post today. I’m a daughter of an alcoholic father – I called him the Russian roulett drunk, I have struggled with addiction myself, I have lost some of my most precious loved ones to cancer, and many times my voice silenced by my past. Feelings from the past that often have me frozen in fear in the now. I have learned that feelings are not fact and at times they are amplified by association. How I move forward now is by remembering that feeling when I was in my 20s and having no care in the world, fearless, I was invincible and I could do anything no matter what. I think of that I grab hold of that feeling and hold on tight. That to me is real. That to me is how life should feel. I hope and wish the same for you. That you grab hold of that feeling that makes you the most happy and hold on tight, because you deserve it. 

    • 8.1
      Merry-Jennifer — August 25, 2016 @ 7:11 pm

      Wow. Thank you so much, Angela. I’m so glad you’re here. xo

  9. 9

    I’m just one of those strangers who loves when your posts pop up in my reader, no matter how infrequent they may be. Your words have always resonated with me. I found your blog years ago via your roasted tomato soup recipe. I’ve stuck around, though, because your stories are always genuine and so beautifully written. Very few blogs compel me to click through and comment, but I know I’ve done it on several occasions here. Thank you for sharing your story. I, too, have a sibling with mental health issues. His aren’t as severe as the ones you face (but we are still young, so I know much of our journey is still to come), but I appreciate your openness to talk about something so stigmatized. I still make that tomato soup, by the way. It’s warm and comforting and reassuring, just like your words. Thank you, MJ.

    • 9.1
      Merry-Jennifer — August 25, 2016 @ 7:13 pm

      Thank YOU, Jessica. Thank you for reading and for taking the time to write to me in a comment. Your words mean so much to me. xo

  10. 10
    Rachel Winter — August 25, 2016 @ 7:18 pm

    Love you MJ ♥️
    Glad you are back 🙂 

  11. 11
    Melissa — September 16, 2016 @ 11:40 am

    Thank you for sharing your story and welcome back.  

  12. 12
    Ryan Smith — November 2, 2016 @ 8:14 am

    Thinking of you, M-J. A tough post, but inspiring that you found a way forward.

  13. 13
    Matilde Bird — December 6, 2016 @ 4:23 pm

    MJ- I just logged in to check last year’s fruit cake cookies recipe and read about your withdrawal from your blog. You seem to be a wonderful person and you write beautiful, so I wish you the best.

  14. 14
    Sharon Carr — August 21, 2017 @ 12:01 pm

    Merrygourmet.com, I was so very glad to see your name pop up on my feed today. It’s been too long!!  That Alaska trip looks awesome and makes me want to do the research and put a trip together. Don’t stay away so long next time!!

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